Picture this: You have a great idea for a new fashion tech company–something that will revolutionize the shopping experience– but you have no idea how to develop a website. Who and where do you turn to? Craigslist? Your friend from business school? Your old boss? Thanks to Sahadeva Hammari, there is one simple answer: CollabFinder.
Based in New York, CollabFinder is taking the struggle out of networking and making the process of finding collaborators easier than ever. Users join via Facebook and include their interests, skills and background. You can pitch your idea to other members, or let them pitch their project to you; find collaborators according to interest, skill or location.
Launched with seed investment from Betaworks in early 2013, CollabFinder already has a few success stories under its belt, including the recently buzzed about Art.sy and NYC-founded fashion startup, Maker’s Row. With over 1900 collaborators, and recent partnerships with School of Visual Arts’s Interactive design department and NYC.gov, CollabFounder is making a name for itself in the startup world.
TWF sat down with Sahadeva to get the inside scoop on how CollabFinder works and what the future holds for the company.
TWF: What inspired you to start CollabFinder?
SH: There was a moment a few years ago when I realized everything good that’s happened in my life is the result of me talking to a stranger. For example, I ended up coming to New York to work at a startup for the first time because I emailed one of my heroes. I ended up working with some incredible designers and programmers here in the city on side projects because I emailed them, too– but my friends never seemed to be doing the same thing.
So I figured if I could make a website where it wasn’t weird to send a message to a stranger, then my friends would be able to start all the great projects they’d been putting on the back burner because they didn’t have a collaborator to work with. It was a pretty simple thing; help people start conversations and post their ideas so they could team up and actually start building them. The first step to making that possible was to make a place where people can say, “feel free to pitch me personal projects,” and that’s where we’re at with CollabFinder.
We make it really easy to see if someone is interested in starting new projects, or if you have mutual friends or similar interests, so that striking up a conversation is easy and fast. It really should be the case that striking a conversation with a stranger online is easier than it is in the real world because we can provide so much rich, contextual information about someone that it feels natural to do so. Hopefully we’ll get there soon.
TWF: What value does CollabFinder add compared to other companies in the fashion tech space?
SH: We’re not focused on fashion or any other industry per se, but we think CollabFinder can speed up and improve the way fashion products and companies get made and that’s why we’re interested in fashion. We’re in the business of connecting people with complimentary skills and similar interests, whether that’s clothing or art or startups or scientific endeavors. Great fashion projects, like most other types of projects, are the result of great collaborations.
The real magic happens when two people from different backgrounds team up, and that’s what we focus on. For example: A designer and a developer teaming up to build an app, or a writer and an illustrator make a graphic novel together. It’s actually because we don’t focus on one industry or skillset that we have been successful in helping people team up and start projects and companies. Most writers, to use another example, don’t know where to find great illustrators who are interested in science fiction, live in NYC, and know some of the same people you do. We make it easy to find those people and start projects with them.
TWF: What has been the hardest obstacle for you in starting CollabFinder? What has been your favorite part?
SH: I don’t really know what the hardest obstacle was, though there were many. However, one really fantastic part is seeing how people have finally been able to give up their day job and begin the project they’ve always wanted to because they found someone to do it with on CollabFinder. It’s mind blowing! Two complete strangers find each other on the internet, start a conversation, and that conversation turns into two people quitting their jobs, teaming up and making something new. It’s crazy, and totally awesome.
But the best part, by a mile, has been working with Simon and Gil, my Co-Founders. Working with people who are incredibly smart and that I admire just changes everything.
TWF: Tell us about one of the bigger success story of CollabFinder. Why were they successful?
SH: My favorite success story is this guy Junu Yang. He’s a designer at famed design shop IDEO who is one of our earliest users and has started some rad projects through the site. The most interesting part of Junu’s success on CollabFinder is that it tells a story that might not be so obvious: That incredibly talented, well-connected people are constantly looking to team with people to start new projects. It wasn’t obvious to me that this would be the case.
TWF: What does your average day in the life look like for you?
SH: Here is a recent sample: Wake up. Ponder running away. Turn on my phone. Get excited about something that happened on the site. Get out of bed. Work a lot. Take a Google Street View tour of Barcelona because my brain is dead. Think of crazy CollabFinder projects. Dread email. Write a lot of email. Take my dog George out for a walk.
TWF: What’s up next for CollabFinder? Any big plans for the rest of 2013?
SH: We just launched a big project with The City of New York called NYCBigApps.com. We’re going to be doing more interesting things with cities and universities, where our software can do a lot of good. We’ll also be doing some fun stuff with the software that will open up new data about how people collaborate and give even more social context so it’s even easier to start a conversation.//
Keeping with the collaborative spirit of our “State of Fashion Tech” event last night, we’re proud to announce the launch of our CollabFinder group page. Sign up here to join in on the fun.
Kellie Friedman is the Research & Editorial Intern for TWF. Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.
Image via CollabFinder.